Our ancestors have always been wise and all-knowing people. Their written heritage is kept in numerous proverbs. In particular, African proverbs are full of wisdom and deep meaning. Young people perfectly realize that sayings of our elders are a real understanding. If you read these proverbs thoughtfully, you will surely find all the necessary knowledge you have been looking for long ago. Therefore, below you will find top 30 African proverbs and their meaning.
African proverbs about life, love, friendship, marriage and other important issues reflect all the ancient and vital knowledge every educated person should be aware of. A saying in Africa has always been a subtle means of expression. Nigerian people believe that a senior man makes use of a variety of them while communicating with his relatives.
In particular, African proverbs about life and death have already helped many people to make the right choice in life. Therefore, below you will find great African proverbs and their explanation.
African proverbs and their meaning
- The lizard that jumped from the high Iroko tree to the ground told it would praise itself if no one else did.
Meaning: This is one of the most known African proverbs on leadership. It means that a person must always stay happy about his or her achievements even if nobody cares.
- Lizard that ruined its mother’s burial, what did it expect others to do?
Meaning: This is a famous African proverb about life and death. In African culture, mother’s funeral is an individual matter. None cares the way you plan it. This saying means that if you disorder any activity that worries you, you should not believe others to do otherwise. Nigerian people use this proverb in case they want to caution somebody about his approach to planning.
- He who sees an old hag squatting should leave her alone, who knows how she breathes?
Meaning: You should never interfere in someone issues particularly when you do not know anything about them.
- Anger against a brother is felt on the flesh, not in the bone.
Meaning: You should forget and forgive anything your relatives did to you.
- Maize bears fruits once and dies because it is not rooted into the ground.
Meaning: You will never get to the top and stay prosperous without a good foundation.
- He who will swallow ‘udala’ seed must consider the size of his stomach
Meaning: ‘Udala’ seed is an apple seed. It is never digested in the stomach. This proverb means that you must always think about all possible consequences of your actions.
- The fly that has no one to advise him, follows a corpse into the grave.
Meaning: You will fall into a trap if you do not have good advice or refuse to take one.
- When a handshake passes the elbow, it becomes another thing.
Meaning: It is one of the common African proverbs about friendship. It means that you should always be watchful when an unfamiliar person is too acquainted or mind when you are being made fun of.
- He likes burial ram’s meat, but recovers when sickness visits him.
Meaning: Someone who wants other people to spend for him but is indisposed to spend.
- White anti chews ‘Igbegulu’ (palm stem) because it is lying on the ground, let it climb the palm tree and eat it.
Meaning: ‘Igbegulu’ is a palm stem. The proverb tells about a situation when people will abuse you when they do not realize who you are and find yourself in everyone’s mist.
- When a mighty tree falls, the birds are scattered into the bush.
Meaning: It is another famous African proverb on leadership. When a great leader passes away, many people lose their way in life if they do not find a successor.
- No matter how long a log stays in water, it does not become a crocodile.
Meaning: You will always be who you are regardless of how long you fake your character.
- The little bird that hops off the ground and lands on anti-hill may not know it but still on the ground.
Meaning: You may think that you have achieved greatness, but you are yet to start. Wise people in Africa use this proverb to caution an arrogant person.
- A common snake, which a man sees all alone, may become a python in his eyes.
Meaning: It is never enough to judge anything on one man’s version.
- The very thing that killed a mother rat is always there to make sure that its young ones never open their eyes
Meaning: The wicked people are at work all the time.
- A boy who perseveres in asking what killed his father before he has enough strength to avenge, may be asking for his father’s fate.
Meaning: You should never start a battle if you are either not ready for or old enough to become a winner.
- The man who belittled the sickness a monkey suffered, must ask to see the eyes which his nurse got from blowing his sick fire.
Meaning: Before you disrespect other people`s difficulties, always think of the effects it has both on them and their families.
- When death wants to take a little dog, it prevents him from perceiving even the smell of excrement.
Meaning: It is another great African proverb about life and death. You will never pay attention to a wise advice when you are fated for bad luck.
- A man who sees a hen scattering excrement should stop it. Who knows who will eat the leg?
Meaning: It is one of the most known African proverbs about marriage. Any time you see a girl misbehaving, just worn her for you never know who will marry her. It is always might be either you or a member of your family.
- If that rat cannot flee enough, let it make way for tortoise.
Meaning: If you cannot do something, just let other people try to do it. No one has complete knowledge or power.
- White fowl with beautiful feathers.
Meaning: This proverb tells about either thing or person that is good for nothing. A good for nothing person or thing. It is a famous African proverb. It is commonly used when people talk about a beautiful woman with an evil character.
- Look for a dark goat first in the daytime because you may not find it at night.
Meaning: You should always order your goals and follow them before it is too late to accomplish them.
- What an elder saw while sitting, a youth could not see it standing
Meaning: Elder people always have more knowledge and wisdom than the young people.
- The day I need a wife, the market is filled with mad people
Meaning: When you want something, you will never get it. It is a widely used proverb depicting bad luck.
- When a man makes a fence, you will know his level of wisdom.
Meaning: Your knowledge always reveals in your activities.
- A fowl does not forget who trim his feathers during the raining season.
Meaning: A person will never forget help rendered to him for the duration of hard times. Raining season in Africa has always been a difficult period for fowls since it is tough for them to hunt for food while their feathers keep growing.
- To break a palm-knell nut for a fowl.
Meaning: This proverb is used when a person grieves in vain for something.
- Send your child where he wants to go, and you will see his pace.
Meaning: Passion must always drive our actions.
- A child’s fingers are not scalded by a piece of hot yam, which his mother puts into his hand.
Meaning: No matter what it is, your inheritance will never kill you.
- An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb.
Meaning: This proverb means that your mind will judge you when you are guilty in some crime, and it is being said now.
- A chick that will grow into a rooster can be spotted the very day it hatches.
Meaning: There is the sign to every situation where it tends to at the early stages if you look judgmentally.
Of course, there are hundreds of African proverbs. In this article, we have revealed some pieces of ancient wisdom, which are worthwhile mentioning. We hope some of them will help you in everyday life. If you want to share some other African proverbs about money, love or any other vital issues, please, write them in the comments below.